Broadband policy not realistic- Rowney

The soon to be finalised Broadband Policy projected to shape the future of internet and telecommunication access is not realistic, said the Advisory Council Member for Alliance for Affordable Internet and Member of Africa ICT Alliance, Paul Rowney at a breakfast meeting held in the capital last week Friday.

One of the primary objectives of the policy is to permit all Namibians to have full access to affordable internet and 100 percent network coverage by 2020. “The system does not accommodate all concerned stake holders therefore it is unrealistic. There is still a lot to be done before the policy can be implemented. 

If we talk about the affordable internet that we speak of and access to information and when you look at some schools in the north there is still no electricity or mobile phone network coverage, so I don’t see how this policy is realistic,” he said.

He added that access to broadband impacts vitally every aspect of public and private life including education; healthcare; trade; commerce; public accountability; the media access to justice; banking and finance and access to information and both professional and private communications. Rowney further explained that it is impossible to reach policy targets as well as Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP) pillar ICT goals.

“The target of 100 percent network coverage is not realistic I don’t think this is possible by 2020. We have targets in HPP regarding education that all students must have access to broadband which is a smartphone and if an average Namibian does not afford a daily meal how do we expect them to provide a smart phone for their children to have access to information?” he queried.

 He added that Namibia would get there but not in the targeted time frame set in the HPP sub –pillar of ICT and current broadband policy regulations. In the 2016 access to information report, Namibia is ranked fourth out of 10 nations in all policy areas, but there is a need for urgent action to expand access to information. Government’s Openness in Information report of 2015 states that the access to information environment has not changed significantly in the past years.

The primary concern is that the proposed laws such as Communication Act of 2009 do not have sufficient gatekeeping measures to avoid a situation where these specialised intrusion technologies can be used for human rights abuse.